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When Will We Take Responsibility for the Obama Presidency's Failings?

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Holding Ourselves Responsible for Electing Obama

Another cycle of conversation on the bitter disappointment that is the Obama presidency appears to be taking place once again among liberals or progressives. Writers for prominent progressive media like The Nation and leaders in prominent progressive organizations like Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) are expressing their discontent and offering suggestions to dismayed Americans who had hoped change would actually come from the Obama Administration.

Eric Alterman of The Nation published an article recently calling the Obama presidency "a big disappointment." Katrina vanden Heuvel, also of The Nation, suggested that people aren't just disappointed in Obama but really wonder where this country is headed. And, Norman Solomon, on the executive board of Progressive Democrats of America, recently told Real News' Paul Jay, "The Obama Administration is more and more moving towards policies that many who worked to elect Obama have worked to oppose in recent years."

Obama on Inauguration Day

The emerging consensus, which has been present over the past year and a half as more and more progressives confess frustration with President Obama, is that the presidency has taken a turn away from progressivism, a turn that many didn't expect or hoped would not occur. There are a few progressive minds who are being asked what to do next that appear willing to admit they held their nose and voted for a centrist Democrat, but an overwhelming amount continue to cling to their history of delusions and maintain Obama could have been progressive.

The consensus also religiously clings to the reality that Republicans are becoming increasingly dangerous for the country and hold that reality up as an excuse for why Obama has "failed" progressives tremendously. To them, the power of the minority has made it near impossible for any progressive agenda, any major social reforms to get through. This would be a valid argument if plenty of evidence of Democratic Party leaders allowing or quite often colluding with the toxic talk and agenda of the Republican Party did not exist.

Not extending unemployment benefits and not raising more of a fuss as Republicans obstruct the renewal of these jobless benefits, appointing Petraeus to replace McChrystal in Afghanistan and continuing a war in a country often regarded as "the graveyard of empires," maintaining a permanent troop presence in Iraq, contributing to culture which led to the BP oil disaster by indicating renewed support for offshore drilling one month before the disaster, keeping the option of a national public-financed healthcare system off the table as Republicans cried foul about a socialist takeover of healthcare and talked death panels, refusal to advance the minor reform that labor unions have desired, the Employee Free Choice Act (pretty much the only real demand they have had for Obama), the continued use of rendition, believing the truth will endanger soldiers and lead to increased deaths and instability in the Middle East and refusing to investigate torture or release photos of the abuse that soldiers inflicted on detainees--- These are just some of the victories Republicans have won from Obama. These are just some of the many examples of continuity that Republicans have enjoyed.

Progressives have gradually woken up from their hope-induced coma and begun to realize more and more the folly that they have been engaging in. They had been dithering on what to do as social movements stumbled (e.g. the antiwar movement, which Cindy Sheehan has tried to re-ignite without much success). That's why more and more editorial writers and more and more leaders and organizers are being critical.

The questions must be asked: What level of responsibility should progressives take for the fact that they were swept up in Hope-a-Palooza '08? How much are progressive writers, media makers, organizers, and leaders to blame for the current impact the Obama presidency has had on society, if any?

While it is uncomfortable and in some respects unreasonable to take to task the people who should be the biggest allies of social movements and, in fact, an ally of this writer (who considers himself to be progressive), the cycle with which progressives have the Left going in is incredibly destructive to the future of this country, the world and in fact the whole of humanity. The strategy and tactics of progressives increasingly look like the definition of insanity--doing the same thing again and again and expecting a different result.

Norman Solomon and Jeff Cohen each appear in two different series produced by Real News on progressives and the Democratic Party. One set particularly addresses the dynamics between progressives and Obama and the other addresses the corporatism of the Democratic Party, which has made it about impossible for real change to occur.

Both offer a further understanding of what the role of progressives is in society. Solomon reminds progressives "the Democratic Party base is appreciably more progressive than those who get elected and that needs to be rectified. Primaries exist for a reason, they're rarely utilized to the extent they could and should be." Cohen expresses his belief in the idea that progressives can "take over" the Democratic Party "through social action and grassroots politics and money" just like the Republican Party did after the Eisenhower Administration.

Solomon and Cohen display faith in the tying of social movements and independent political action to electoral activity. Fundamentally, there is little wrong with this concept. The best movements understood they had to have a presence in the street and had to have an electoral arm of the struggle. But, all too often, those movements, which had presences in elections, were running on a single issue as a candidate for a smaller party that was not Democrat or Republican, an electoral strategy that Solomon and Cohen do not support.

Given the massive shortcomings of the past four decades, it is time for those who speak for progressives and who purport to know ideas on how to best move forward toward a more egalitarian, more socially responsible and less corporate-controlled country to explain why not just progressives but Americans are to believe that their so-called "inside-outside strategy" can work or should work.

Why should we who have visions of a world that the Democratic Party is not willing to push for, why should we support the efforts of groups like Progressive Democrats of America to keep all concerned, socially-minded and oftentimes left-leaning people in one big tent?

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Kevin Gosztola is a writer and curator of Firedoglake's blog The Dissenter, a blog covering civil liberties in the age of technology. He is an editor for OpEdNews.com and a former intern and videographer for The Nation Magazine.And, he's the (more...)
 

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Your article is insightful and to the point. The o... by Skywalker Payne on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 11:24:09 AM
Because your message is essentially what I want th... by Kevin Gosztola on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 3:25:04 PM
Sorry to repeat this, but have you all forgotten C... by bruce powell on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 10:28:20 AM
So, accept it: Obama is the furthest extent capbal... by bruce powell on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 11:35:31 AM
Bruce pretty much summed up the situation. Aside f... by Evelyn Pringle on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 12:00:56 PM
The AF 1 ride was humiliating, but did you see the... by Guitar Chris on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:52:20 PM
The AF 1 ride was humiliating, but did you see the... by Guitar Chris on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:53:17 PM
Feingold, Kucinich, Grayson. The true leadership.... by Guitar Chris on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:48:31 PM
Yes, Grayson is maybe even better, fresher, in bot... by bruce powell on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:30:17 AM
The link below is one place to start (check more o... by Daniel Geery on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 12:07:54 PM
Backon April 17, 2010 at 22:11:26, I posted a Diar... by Terry Adcock on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 12:26:29 PM
Humanity has had its day and that day is soon to b... by Dick Hudson on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 12:37:04 PM
Progressives of this country MUST openly proclaim ... by Mark Sashine on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 12:39:29 PM
and we do not always know who they are. Bashing th... by Margaret Bassett on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:03:48 PM
Meanwhile, as we wait for some sort of leadership,... by FAITHCARR on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:19:20 PM
Truly, these are dark days for progressives. For m... by Perry Logan on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:25:41 PM
Sorry Perry but I think the Democratic party has b... by Evelyn Pringle on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 2:38:37 PM
I doubt my agreement will be the kiss of death for... by GLloyd Rowsey on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 6:48:58 AM
The author raises some excellent and provocative q... by laurabonham on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:30:13 PM
I'll give Progressive Democrats of America credit ... by Kevin Gosztola on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 2:54:59 PM
Why are we under the impression that Obama is fail... by Guitar Chris on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:36:10 PM
He's one of the best politicians the empire has ev... by Kevin Gosztola on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 3:07:36 PM
but most people in American NEVER take responsibil... by Michael Morris on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 1:51:27 PM
"We are no on the course that Rome took and I have... by Aurora on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 3:10:34 PM
and when Washington is in the same state, the fall... by Michael Morris on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 4:19:44 PM
Nero set fire to Rome to clear it of a plague of r... by Arthur M. Howard-(Scotoni) on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 1:58:50 AM
The humble, gentle, peaceful and "meek" majority c... by Arthur Avalon on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 2:17:48 PM
It's refreshing to see you acknowledge the lack of... by Sherwin Steffin on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 2:22:49 PM
I might be able to connect with more people?I'm go... by Kevin Gosztola on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 3:13:15 PM
You are making my point for me. In order to accomp... by Sherwin Steffin on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 4:16:50 PM
"We are talking the focused commitment andmobiliza... by Maxwell on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 11:57:27 AM
Most of you who know me have witnessed my rants ov... by steve scheetz on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 2:57:29 PM
... Ron Paul never DID sign on to the 35 needed AR... by Brian O'Moore on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 11:38:41 PM
"It is time to take a very hard look at the Obama ... by J. Edward Tremlett on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:33:33 PM
An interesting article, as evidenced by the large ... by Bruce Morgan on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 6:00:19 PM
You said, "Obama made it very clear where he stood... by Don Smith on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 9:53:39 PM
When I first started reading your comment, it look... by Bruce Morgan on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:45:32 AM
Read Glen Ford as well as his long-time co-writers... by GLloyd Rowsey on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 7:23:52 AM
When I heard Obama say that corporate money and in... by Philip Pease on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:53:01 AM
Kevib Gosztola wrote: "This would be a valid argum... by Daniel Penisten on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 7:28:15 PM
First of all, we the citizens who voted for him, a... by Harvey Solomon on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 8:04:15 PM
Progressives are in the same position that the Lik... by Carol Davidek-Waller on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 10:20:25 PM
... than what preceded him, for 8 full, miserable ... by Brian O'Moore on Monday, Jul 12, 2010 at 10:53:47 PM
I don't know how this could come about, but if we ... by Elizabeth Hanson on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:28:26 AM
In order to have a party, you must have people who... by Doc "Old Codger" McCoy on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 1:08:29 AM
Don't disagree with your analysis in the first par... by Kevin Gosztola on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:21:20 AM
And in my humble opinion, you'll be wasting your t... by GLloyd Rowsey on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 11:17:15 AM
I would only go to journalism school if I could ga... by Kevin Gosztola on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 11:31:52 AM
Party Politics is a meaningless exercise that is d... by Walter L. Bradley Jr. on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 8:06:08 AM
Everyone is so quick to jump on the "dump Obama be... by Liberty Bell on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:12:03 AM
Or the Chosen One but in the period from 2007 to J... by Kevin Gosztola on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:52:58 AM
Lousy Health Insurance that we have to have by for... by Debbie S on Thursday, Jul 15, 2010 at 12:45:05 AM
To fully acknowledge our blame, we must acknowledg... by Jeff Poster on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 9:27:44 AM
You should not accept advice from me without skept... by Blaine Kinsey on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 10:16:34 AM
I acknowledge the reality that Americans want "ins... by Kevin Gosztola on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 11:35:16 AM
staked himself a carefully calculated position in ... by Maxwell on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 12:35:15 PM
The answer may lie in those cultural institutions ... by Jere Hough on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 2:29:01 PM
You provide no new information, leave no thought t... by Sherwin Steffin on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 5:09:46 PM
An accurate diagnosis of the illness must precede ... by Jere Hough on Tuesday, Jul 13, 2010 at 7:00:24 PM
Over the decades, every concrete step forward in a... by Mary Bell Lockhart on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 at 12:09:31 AM
I have no confidence that the Democratic Party (or... by Terry Adcock on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 at 2:31:37 PM
THERE IS NO HOPE FOR CHANGE,BRAINWASHED AND DUMMED... by MARGARET BASET on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 at 5:15:42 AM
Your article disappoints. I had hoped that you wou... by ssg13565 on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 at 2:12:10 PM
" If Obama could have counted on the vocal support... by Terry Adcock on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 at 2:50:20 PM
Now that that there is virtual unanimity that ... by Herbert Calhoun on Wednesday, Jul 14, 2010 at 4:20:17 PM
With the Republicans, Blue Dogs, or Right Wing nut... by Debbie S on Thursday, Jul 15, 2010 at 12:13:59 AM
Apparently some people here still think the past e... by ssg13565 on Thursday, Jul 15, 2010 at 3:24:58 PM